David Cameron held out the prospect of using future public spending savings to fund tax cuts as he hit back at political and church criticism of tough austerity measures.
The Prime Minister said “every efficiency” found could help provide “a bit of extra cash” for hard-pressed families – enough for parents to pay for trainers or a birthday meal for their children.
And he pointed to the Government’s acceptance of a recommended above-inflation rise in the minimum wage as another example of voters feeling the benefits.
In a speech just two weeks before the Chancellor delivers the Budget, he acknowledged a failure properly to explain the “values” behind swingeing cuts – including a severe squeeze on welfare.
“Too often we’ve given the impression that we’re just about fixing problems rather than changing things for a purpose,” he conceded – including on immigration and education. “It’s not just what we are doing that matters, it’s why. It’s all about values.
“And the most important value right now – after a difficult time for our country – is giving people a sense of economic security and peace of mind.”
Mr Cameron, who has made clear his desire to cut taxes if the Conservatives win power outright in 2015, said security came from “having more money in our pockets”.
Senior Tories are calling for the 40p income tax rate threshold to be raised in the Budget so it hits fewer workers, easing the burden on middle-class voters.
The Liberal Democrats are pushing for the main income tax allowance to be raised to £10,500 in what Nick Clegg calls a “workers’ bonus” of £100 off the bills of basic-rate taxpayers.
Speaking at an apprenticeship event in Coventry. Mr Cameron said seeking savings was “important at the best of times but it’s more important than ever when families are feeling the squeeze”.
“Because every bit of government waste we can cut, every efficiency we can achieve is money we can give back to you.
“A bit of extra cash that can help a dad afford those trainers for his son or help a mum celebrate her daughter’s birthday with a meal out.”
Senior church leaders have recently joined criticism of cuts to benefits but Mr Cameron said the Government was obliged to act to cut worklessness and immigration levels.